In addition to seeing patients and putting out fires, carve out 15 minutes each day for your own improvement and to define ‘What is leadership to you?’
Chances are good you endeavor to be better. But when it comes to becoming a better leader, there’s desire and then there’s a mere 24 hours in the day in which to seek accomplishment. In that same time period, you treat patients. In a small office, you’re likely the only doctor.
You might also chart notes, read X-rays, soothe unruly clients, pay bills, mediate between arguing team members, stay on top of insurance claims and payables, and maybe, on occasion, attend a conference for your own betterment. At the conference, you catch up with colleagues and attend sessions on critical issues. The challenge appears when becoming a better leader never becomes critical. It never reaches urgency and therefore never garners a great deal of your focus.
We procrastinate about improvement. We believe there will always be time for it. We may even convince ourselves we don’t really need to get better…right up until the truth of that myth becomes obvious, or a staff member makes it the focus of the interview you provide upon their exit.
What is leadership to you? Start with one skill set
Becoming a better leader can easily be completed by following a process. But that same process becomes much more complex when you attempt to improve three, four or five skill sets all at once. Pick one and stay focused.
If time management is a real problem, work only on calendar management, limiting distractions, or saying “yes” to time-drainers less often. Any one of those as a focus will result in improvements in your time management. All three attempted at once will likely result in frustration. If you wish to develop your communications or emotional intelligence, pick one aspect of either and consider choosing to practice your new approach with only one of your staff members.
In a small practice environment, small improvements make a big difference. Changes in the behavior motivating your efforts may not take much in the way of time, or shifts in action, to be readily noticed. The converse is also true. Doing nothing, in even a small area where you know something needs improvement in yourself or your office or the environment, will make a minor issue much more obvious mighty quickly. Pick one skill, one person or one aspect of your leadership and make it your focus.
Set time limits
Focus can be hard to come by in a small practice. In fact, it’s that hurried, quick-moving state that plagues most small practice leaders. Everything is urgent. Everyone’s needs are on fire and take top priority except, of course, your own.
Your time to address non-urgent issues is minimal. But a continued existence in the land of the urgent, regardless of its real importance, will result in your arrival in the land of burnout. Time of your own can be found in the 15 minutes before other staff arrive in the morning. Perhaps you set an appointment for yourself to work on a skill or gain new knowledge on the days your office isn’t open to patients.
Consider delegation. Spend less time on non-critical conversations and carve out a minimum of 15 minutes per day on which to direct efforts toward your improvement. A little a day goes a long way. One root at a time grew the giant tree you now admire. Decide your needs matter, ask what is leadership to you, and carve out weekly time for betterment.
However, if putting yourself on your own list is the area that needs the most help, consider enlisting the help of a mature team member, a trusted staff member or colleague who will hold you accountable, or a professional coach with a proven track record. In all options, remember those who have learned the hard way often make the best advisors in this area.
Often, being the master of finding the time and choosing yourself as a focus boils down to giving permission. Give yourself permission to not be the expert in all things or all areas. Ask what is leadership to you and give yourself permission to seek improvement even if only in 15-minute increments.
Give yourself permission to stop equating the need to learn, or improve, with being less than or behind. Think of all that you tell yourself needs to happen in the office before you’re allowed, so to speak, to spend time with your family or do something that would further your own leadership. How often do you say “yes” to the needs of the practice and patients while saying no to your own intentions?
Your patients, staff and family are depending on your own persistence in the effort of making your leadership more effective. Sometimes permission is nothing more than telling yourself to keep going.
Becoming that leader
One step at a time, in moments with one singular focus, coupled with permission to keep going in the direction of your own improvement, is the foundation for becoming a better leader in your practice. Admire the many hats you wear. Cherish the multiple roles you play and share, and keep yourself on your own list of top priorities. You’ve got this. You can get better and your bottom line will show it. In fact, not only can you get better, but if you’re ready to get started, it’s highly likely your staff and patients are eagerly awaiting your efforts.
Monica Wofford, CSP, is a leadership development coach and consultant, CEO of Contagious Companies Inc. and author of “Make Difficult People Disappear.” She has also been a keynote speaker at numerous chiropractic conferences. She can be reached at Monica@MonicaWofford.com, ContagiousCompanies.com, or 866-382-0121.